Sony // 1993 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Kevin Lee (Retired) // March 1st, 2002
There's only one way to win the girl of your dreams: floor it!
A few short weeks ago I sat down and penned a review for neo-gangster flick Luck Of The Draw during which I declared it the "worst movie ever" and taking the dubious title away from the Marlee Matlin / D.B. Sweeney vehicle Hear No Evil. Considering that Hear No Evil had held the title for nearly a decade and considering just how wretched Luck of the Draw was, I figured it would be a good long time before I could find a movie that was worse. Sadly, I only had to look in the same batch of screeners I received to find Motorama, a film that holds so little regard for the intelligence of its audience that it really doesn't even deserve to be called a "film."
Young Gus (Jordan Christopher Michael) is a precocious 12-year-old who gets fed up with his abusive homelife, so he rolls up his loose change, steals a Mustang and sets out on the road to win the "Motorama" game. The way it works is like this: every time you spend at least five dollars at a Chimera gas station you get game cards for the game. If you collect the eight letters to spell out "Motorama" you become eligible to win $500 million.
Gus' main concern is avoiding the police -- a twelve-year-old driving a hot car kind of sticks out. In retrospect this shouldn't have been a problem since every adult character in the film is too stupid to recognize that Gus is only twelve. During his journeys, Gus meets up with a myriad of characters, several of whom are bent on doing him harm. At one point he's kidnapped and loses an eye, and later a band of ruffians give him a bunch of tattoos, which I mention primarily because one of them is played by Meat Loaf (Fight Club). Frankly, if he wasn't named "Meat Loaf" he would be horribly being close to being a "That Guy," as in "That Guy in The Rocky Horror Picture Show" or "That Guy with the boobs in Fight Club."
Sooner rather than later, Gus' funds begin to run out, so he begins grifting for money. At one point he puts on a set of Groucho Marx glasses (you know, the ones with the funny nose and mustache attached) and pretends to be a food inspector at a greasy spoon diner. This scam nets enough money for the next adventure. As Gus crosses the heartland of a surreal America searching for the final letter, he dreams of his eventual success and his Dream Girl (Drew Barrymore -- Charlie's Angels) and meets up with his older, future self who's wasted his entire lifetime searching for the "R."
Motorama is considered something of a "cult classic," which, according to The Movie Cynic Handbook™ translates to: "a film beloved by a small group of fanatic people for reasons sane people can't quite explain." I guess this would mean that someone, somewhere, likes this movie.
The only good I could see in this film were the numerous cameos, which included former MTV goddess Martha Quinn, the aforementioned Mr. Loaf, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a punk band, for our older readers), Garrett Morris (Cool Runnings), Drew Barrymore (wearing a bikini) and character actor Michael J. Pollard (another one of those "That Guys").
The video transfer is nothing short of poor. Columbia/TriStar claims that this is an "Anamorphic Video" presentation in "Full Screen." If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "what's the point?" On top of that, it's grainy throughout and simply doesn't look good. I'd put it somewhere above having your TV monitor covered in wax paper but well below any of Columbia's other releases. I suppose I shouldn't have expected more for a low budget film like Motorama. The audio is a flat two-channel surround mix that makes no real use of the sound field. For bonus features, we're treated to the trailer.
What we have with Motorama is a film with a massive identity crisis. On one hand, you have a film with a plot so utterly simplistic with elements that would appeal exclusively to a younger audience. You have a young roustabout thwarting the will of a seemingly mentally slow adult populace. It's perfect fare for children, right? Don't be too sure, because Motorama is also filled with nudity, profanity, gore, and disturbing imagery that would probably be found in films by David Lynch or John Waters.
Let's take a look at the first element: the young person's movie. Basically this boils down to a few elements. The first of which is Gus' obsession to collect all of the Motorama cards, which is a believable reaction that someone Gus' age might have. (Think: "Pokémon.") Of course, normal kids don't steal a car and set off looking for all of the cards, but you get the idea. This is an idea that kids will identify with more than say, a thirtysomething single-white yuppie male such as myself. The next element of children's entertainment is the "authority thwarted" theme that is prevalent in movies like Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone or Dunston Checks In. Naturally, it helps that all of the adults depicted in the film have the intellect roughly the equivalent of potting soil. Here are some examples:
* No one thinks Gus is a child.
* A guy kidnaps Gus when he catches Gus trying to siphon gas, and in the process strikes him across the face. The doctor brought in to treat Gus' eye seems to think it's perfectly normal that this guy hit the child.
* A guy loses $100 playing horseshoes to Gus, so he takes his children out in the woods and leaves them there, driving off with his wife who simply goes along with the idea of leaving their children in the woods. Words can not express how annoyed I was by this.
* People believe that food inspectors routinely wear Groucho Marx glasses as disguises for surprise inspections.
I could go on, and on, and on.
So now that we seemingly have the perfect fare for children, let's take a quick look at why we don't.
* Gus' eye wound is pretty nasty and the events surrounding it are
* Disturbing imagery during a dream sequence that includes a KKK member being hanged by one of his own, junkies overdosing in an alley, and a hooker being gang-raped. (I guess this would be the "horrible underbelly" of America that offsets that panorama of America.)
* Two people climb in the back of the Mustang for a gratuitous "quickie" while Gus is preoccupied with tearing open a stack of Motorama cards.
* Gus' future self dies messily in a car accident.
I could go on, and on, and on.
I hope everyone reading this can see where I'm going with this. When you have a script that exhibits utter contempt for anyone's intelligence, a story that makes no sense due to the surreal elements, surreal elements that only denigrate the story further, some of the worst acting I've ever seen in a movie (no way was it this bad in Hear No Evil, and that's saying something) and dialogue that must have been written by someone's dog, you end up with 91 of the most horrifyingly torturous minutes ever committed to celluloid. Was the director trying to be the next David Lynch? Maybe. I don't know. But whatever he was trying, he failed at it miserably.
Wretched. Putrid. Vile. Repulsive. I could unload a thesaurus on this sad, sad little movie. If you're trying to see the worst movie ever, well, here it is. Just don't say I didn't warn you. If anyone considering this a "cult classic" wants to explain the appeal to me, I'm more than willing to listen.
Guilty of displaying utter contempt for the viewer, Motorama is sentenced to sitting and collecting dust on store shelves everywhere. The director is sentenced to being duct taped to a chair and being forced to stare (in a Clockwork Orange sort of way) at this film for 48 hours, after which time he'll be given a shotgun with rubber bullets. Whatever that might mean.
I will now light myself on fire.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer